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NATO ships hold anti-submarine joint drill in Black Sea

VARNA, Bulgaria, July 10 (Xinhua) -- NATO ships from eight countries took part in a crisis response operation on Friday in Bulgaria's Black Sea area during the Open Day of the naval exercise Breeze 2015.

Aboard the Bulgarian frigate Verni, the reporters and VIP guests led by Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev had the opportunity to watch various stages of the drill such as fighting a fire on a passenger ship, rescuing people, defense against attacks by aircraft and submarine, and carrying out an inspection of a ship.

The main idea of the 10-day exercise was to improve interoperability and interaction between the participating navies, and test Bulgaria's mine hunter "Tsibar" according to the NATO Maritime Evaluation Programme (MAREVAL), organizers said.

More than 30 vessels with 1,700 sailors from Bulgaria, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and United States, some of them part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group One and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group TWO of the NATO Response Force, participated in the drill that will end on Sunday.

Bulgarian frigates Drazki and Smeli, Portuguese frigate Francisco de Almeida, Dutch frigate Tromp, Romanian frigate Regele Ferdinand, the U.S. guided-missile destroyer Porter and Turkish submarine Yildiray were some of the vessels involved in the drill.

In addition, two navy helicopters AS 565MB Panther and two aircraft Su-25 from the Bulgarian Air Force, as well as a U.S. P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft also joined the Bulgarian Navy-led exercise, along with representatives of 21 agencies from four ministries, as well as local authorities and NGOs.

Bulgarian Navy held Breeze drill for the first time in 1993, with the participation of three visiting warships including a U.S. frigate and two Turkish minesweepers.

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